The Book of General Ignorance: A Slam Poem | Teen Ink

The Book of General Ignorance: A Slam Poem

June 3, 2008
By Kathryn B., Novi, MI, Novi, MI

The Book of General Ignorance

There are 4 kinds of people, intellectually speaking.
There are the people who know that they know things,
and the people who know that there are things they don’t know,
and the people who don’t know how many things they know,
and then there are the people who don’t know that they don’t know anything about anything.

And The Book of General Ignorance
swears it’s for the people who realize how very little they know about the world, and want to know more.
So I read it.

I learned that chop suey isn’t really Chinese,
and that bagpipes aren’t really Scottish,
and that there are actually only 46 American states,
because Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
all think they’re too good for us
and prefer the term “commonwealths.”

I read that the average person takes a mere 7 minutes to fall asleep at night,
but that doesn’t apply to those of us
who lie there and wonder
how to escape a vicious crocodile
(FYI, you’re supposed to rubber band its mouth shut and run away)
or why sunlight is technically invisible.
You can’t see it, because if could you see it,
there would always be a layer of milky fog
between you
and the rest of the world.
Unless, of course, you’re in the dark.
Which is even stranger because it’s not there
and you still can’t see through it.
They say it takes the average person 7 minutes to fall asleep,
but last night it took me 4 hours.

I learned that mosquitoes hum a concert B natural when mating,
that Mike Tyson owns 4 pet tigers,
and that the Eskimos don’t really have a hundred words for snow.
The only have 4.
They do use the same word for “kiss” and “smell” though.
The French use the same verb, “aimer,” for both “to like” and “to love.”
This is fine most of the time, but when you want to tell someone,
“I like you” or
“I love you,”
je t’aime doesn’t let you choose.

I read that Christopher Columbus never actually said the world was round,
that if you cut an earthworm in half all you get is 2 halves of a dead worm,
and that Baghdad really was a beautiful city once, centuries ago,
but now a thumbs up translates to, “screw you.”

And did you know
that the earth is millions of years overdue to be hit by another giant asteroid?
(Don’t look out the window, it could be coming now.)
The death toll would exceed 2 billion.
Which means that even if you make it,
one third of the people you know won’t.

I learned that the moon smells like gunpowder,
that sometimes hippos will drag sharks out onto land and trample them to death,
and that for every hundred thousand paper clips sold, only 5 actually clip papers.

And have you ever slid down a banister?
No, you haven’t.
I believe the correct term is “handrail.”
The “banisters” are the little poles holding up the handrails.

I read that there are more movie theaters in the former Soviet Union than there are stars visible on a clear night,
that Antarctica is drier than the Sahara Desert,
and that if you took every Eskimo in the world, and grouped them by fives,
the entire population could park at the Los Angeles International Airport.

And if you’ve ever wondered what color the universe is,
now I can tell you.
It’s officially…beige.
For a couple weeks some scientists at Johns Hopkins University said it was pale green.
They even looked at paint chips, and claimed the universe was somewhere in between Mexican Mint, Jade Cluster, and Shangri-La Silk.
Then they realized they’d miscalculated and it’s actually more of an oatmeal.

I learned that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was actually female,
that you’re more likely to be injured while taking off a pair of tights than while swimming after eating,
and that when one chicken starts to bleed, the rest of the coop will peck it to death.

I read that the suicide rate in Lithuania is 5 times that of the US,
and that throughout history, more people have died at their own hand than have been killed in wars.
That adds up to millions. One every forty seconds.
And despite this, I’ve had friends tell me that it’s not that they don’t want to live,
no, they just want to live…
“differently.”

On page “x” of the introduction
The Book of General Ignorance claims
“This book is for the people who know they don’t know very much.”
Because, as we all know,
there are the people who know that they know things,
and the people who know that there are things they don’t know,
and the people who don’t know how many things they know,
and then there are the people who don’t know that they don’t know anything about anything.


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This article has 63 comments.


on Feb. 5 2016 at 8:06 pm
KayeIsWriting SILVER, Oxford, Alabama
9 articles 0 photos 43 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" - Franklin Roosevelt


on Jan. 3 2016 at 5:41 pm
BreeZephyr SILVER, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
7 articles 0 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him...it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” - Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

By the way, why the heck is this not in the magazine???

on Jan. 3 2016 at 5:41 pm
BreeZephyr SILVER, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
7 articles 0 photos 84 comments

Favorite Quote:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him...it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” - Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

Two quotes for you: "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." and "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." Both quotes are from Socrates, and this poem reminded me of him. He was a genius. So are you. Amazing job on this.

on Nov. 3 2015 at 8:41 pm
Maculate_Dream DIAMOND, Riverside, California
71 articles 0 photos 83 comments

Favorite Quote:
I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways to not succeed.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

I am one of those people who wanted to take the time to tell you how I thought of this. And the way you capture the energy you wanted to express by making me read without knowing what to expect is marvelous. I enjoyed your work and I hope you can do more with your talent.

on Nov. 1 2015 at 9:03 pm
Infralalenshka BRONZE, Boom A Chick A Wow Town, Other
3 articles 1 photo 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. -Georges Orwell
It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.
To hold a pen is to be at war. -Voltaire

Je t'aime. I struggled with that dilemma. Thank you so much for writing this. I'm in tears.

on Sep. 19 2015 at 11:26 am
sharpened_pencil GOLD, Warren, New Jersey
11 articles 1 photo 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life can suck, sure. Mostly though it's a blank canvas. If you want to see something brighter in it, you might have to add it yourself." -Patrick Stump, Fall Out Boy

You deserved to be published in the magazine! Such a lightly humorous and simple slam poem that conveys the message that this is one world and everybody is pretty ignorant in their own way. At the end of the day, we're not that cultured or intelligent, and that's really important to keep in mind. Congrats and amazing work!

on Sep. 7 2015 at 8:25 pm
CallMeAria PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
30 articles 27 photos 73 comments

Favorite Quote:
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON :)

Awesome!! I didn't get bored for a second :) this was such an enjoyable piece to read, I picked up some tips, myself xD how that's okay? I would appreciate it if you would check out some of my work and see what you think? :)

knick-knack said...
on Sep. 4 2015 at 10:13 pm
knick-knack, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."



"There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke."

–Vincent Van Gogh

I couldn't stop reading this. It should be a fairly simple affair; you list off some facts, some figures, with a mirrored end and beginning, and let the words take you from there. But this was...so much more than that. Seriously, this was fantastic, and I loved every single second of it. :) Seriously, you are a fantastic author and should definitely keep writing.

on Aug. 30 2015 at 1:31 pm
SomeoneMagical PLATINUM, Durham, New Hampshire
22 articles 1 photo 260 comments
Wow, this was great. I loved this poem a lot, and it is way more than a poem. Many thanks for writing this. It has inspired me :)

on Jul. 12 2015 at 1:35 pm
CharleyHeelis BRONZE, Derby, Other
3 articles 1 photo 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
How can a bird that is born to fly, be put in a cage and expected to sing?

Thanks , macprincess :)

on Jul. 5 2015 at 11:58 pm
MadeleineMoreland GOLD, Corvallis, Oregon
14 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over again"
-Neil Gaiman

I agree this would be fabulous with the author reading/rapping/slamming it aloud!

Izzy777 SILVER said...
on Jun. 25 2015 at 3:42 pm
Izzy777 SILVER, Tampa, Florida
9 articles 0 photos 63 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I always wonder why birds stay in one place when they can fly anywhere around the world. But then I ask myself the same question."

you kept me so captivating the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME. So beautiful this deserves way more then a Editors Choice (:

on Apr. 6 2015 at 4:53 pm
NightinGem BRONZE, Woodland, California
4 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This is fantastic -- its voice is so undeniably human, like your thought process when planning what to say to your friend next. You capture the sporadic nature of a wandering, knowledge-lusting mind in arms both humorous and somewhat sad, and it fits oh-so-perfectly with the voice in your head -- I've heard people asking for it to be read aloud, but honestly, the perfect voice for this piece is that one who's always with you,that thought-voice you can't really pin down. The facts, interspersed with commentary of the person, the person we're so alike to yet may not want to admit it, are interesting and, while seemingly random, each fall into place neatly, like a battered jigsaw puzzle. The places where the pieces have been nipped and worn are the niches for our narrator's speculation and commentary, and in the end, it simply captures human thought, at our most raw.

cocasal GOLD said...
on Apr. 5 2015 at 10:12 am
cocasal GOLD, Centreville, Virginia
11 articles 3 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"My motto as I live and learn, is dig and be dug in return."--Langston Hughes

Wow! This is great work: simple and powerful. This must be selected for the magazine!

on Mar. 22 2015 at 11:42 pm
Clarabelle SILVER, Caracas, Other
6 articles 0 photos 21 comments
This is just... amazing. It really deserves much more than just an editorial mention. You are talented enough to transcend emotion, power and meaning through the verses you write without having to justify your means through voice. I would truly love to see you -- or someone -- perform this as a real slam poem. Truly amazing work, you should be incredibly proud. Keep on writing!

on Sep. 20 2014 at 2:19 pm
EmilytheBelleofA. DIAMOND, Athens, Georgia
81 articles 5 photos 1492 comments

Favorite Quote:
To love is to be vulnerable; Triumph is born out of struggle; We notice shadows most when they stand alone in the midst of overwhelming light.

Wow. Haha, it's so different and just absolutely, wonderful and brilliant. I love it. I'll need to think more about it, as I read, but all in all it's amazing. You have a talent and greatness in you; and I hope you kno wthat. Thank you for sharing this. Congarts on the editor's checkmark, too! I hope it gets published soon. Thanks again. 

on Sep. 20 2014 at 5:58 am
Lisas.Smile GOLD, London, Other
15 articles 57 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey

I also like this quote by Gnarls Barkley:
"You are the best. You are the worst. You are average. Your love is a part of you. You try to give it away because you cannot bear its radiance, but you cannot separate it from yourself. To understand your fellow humans, you must understand why you give them your love. You must realize that hate is but a crime-ridden subdivision of love. You must reclaim what you never lost. You must take leave of your sanity, and yet be fully responsible for your actions." -Gnarls Barkley, in a letter to the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs

Deserves more than an editorial tick.

Megan C. said...
on Aug. 14 2014 at 6:06 pm
This is fantastic!

on Jun. 7 2014 at 9:43 pm
Olivia-Atlet ELITE, Dardenne Prairie, Missouri
324 articles 10 photos 1166 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To these the past hath its phantoms,
More real than solid earth;
And to these death does not mean decay,
But only another birth"
- Isabella Banks

great job! XD

ahheredia GOLD said...
on May. 4 2014 at 4:25 pm
ahheredia GOLD, Mexico City, Other
10 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Forever is composed of nows. -Emily Dickinson

This is really cool haha congrats